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COLUMBIA, MO – Missourians who produce and sell organic products with annual sales of less than $5,000 may be eligible for federal financial and technical assistance even if their operations are not certified organic. But they must apply for assistance by May 20.
J.R. Flores, state conservationist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), says this is a good time for small-scale, certification-exempt organic producers, as well certified and transitional producers, to take advantage of a program that pays up to $80,000 over six years to help them plan and implement conservation practices for their organic farms or gardens.
“You don’t have to be a large-scale farmer who has gone through the organic certification process to benefit from this program,” Flores says. “This organic funding is designed to assist anyone involved in organic food production.”
Flores said the funding is available through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). In addition to small-scale producers, those certified through USDA’s National Organic Program and those transitioning to certified organic production are eligible.
EQIP promotes resource conservation and environmental quality. Through EQIP, NRCS helps producers install structural conservation practices and to implement management systems that promote conservation. Practices could include planting cover crops, establishing integrated pest management plans, constructing seasonal high tunnels, or implementing nutrient management systems consistent with organic certification standards.
“I encourage anyone who produces organic foods to contact their local NRCS offices right away to see how they might benefit from this program,” Flores says. “We don’t know when or if there will be another sign up, so the best time to act is right now.”
To apply for EQIP or to get more information about EQIP and other NRCS programs, contact the NRCS office serving your county. Look in the phone book under “U.S. Government, Department of Agriculture,” or access this website: http://offices.usda.gov.